Bob Miller, Astoria Trolley Conductor

Bob Miller Steers Visitors to Fascinating Sights in this Columbia River Port Town

Astoria’s vintage trolley, which trundles along the waterfront primarily from Memorial Day to Labor Day, is among this river town’s old-time charms. The mellifluous voice of Bob Miller—a radio personality on Portland’s AM stations KEX and KPAM for more than 30 years—can be heard over the speakers as he guides the train along its route. A volunteer conductor and motorman for the 1913-vintage Astoria Riverfront Trolley, Bob enjoys regaling riders with stories from the port town’s salty past as they sightsee along the Columbia.

How did Astoria end up with a trolley?

Old 300 began its life in 1913 in St. Louis, then ran lines in San Antonio and Portland before being put in outside storage. Volunteers brought it to Astoria in 1998 and put in 3,000 hours refurbishing the original varnished oak seats, etched windows, and wood and metal detailing. The only modern part is the overhead speakers.

What do riders learn?

All the conductors have different backgrounds, so we share what interests us, like seabirds, Lewis and Clark, and Fort Astoria. I point out weird little quirks, like the house in The Goonies, and I discuss the town’s maritime history and the magnificent Astoria Bridge.

What’s it like driving such a cool ride?

In a car, you control stop and go with your feet. In the trolley, we’re standing up and driving it with our hands. Since it’s 44,000 pounds, most of the time we cut the power and coast.

Where does the trolley go?

It’s a 3.1-mile run along the river, Industrial Street to Pier 39. Takes about an hour, round trip. Popular stops are the Columbia River Maritime Museum and 11th Street, for shops and restaurants. But the real focus is the river. As we go past the Maritime Museum on a nice day, the Columbia looks like glass, reflecting leaves on trees.

What do you like most?

I love cruise-ship days. There were almost two dozen last year, more this year. We’re jammed to the gills, but it’s fun because we get the chance to talk to people, find out where they’re from.

What shouldn’t we miss in Astoria?

I love Buoy Beer. It’s a former fish-processing plant turned into a brewery/restaurant. Great food, a view of the river, and a hole in the floor with glass over it where you can watch sea lions underneath the restaurant.

–Written by Jennifer Burns Bright
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